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CROSS CREEK REVISITED

THE FOLLOWING WAS ALSO ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2011:

CROSS CREEK REVISITED

Asked if she had to choose between people and trees, she chose trees.
“Cross Creek is a bend in a country road, by land, and the flowing of the Lochloosa Lake into Orange Lake, by water…” (In first chapter of “Cross Creek”).

When I first conceived of the idea of writing about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and her Cross Creek Cookbook, the year was 1998 and I was writing, at the time, for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a newsletter for cookbook collectors. I mistakenly thought, at the time, that hardly anyone knew about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings anymore, aside from school children reading her classic Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Yearling”.

I would reintroduce her to the world – at least the world of Cookbook Collectors Exchange subscribers. Was I ever mistaken! Not only is Rawlings’ home in Cross Creek a National Historical Site, there is even a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and books about her life continue to be published, while many of her previously unpublished works have found publishers – and more importantly – an audience. Google Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and you will get 351,000 hits—and it’s thanks to Google that I have been able to find some of Rawlings’ lesser known works. Some of her previously unpublished material has been published in the past decade.

(A list of the books by MKR and as list of books about her and Cross Creek can be found at the end of this article).

She was a woman far ahead of her time and at a later time in history, would have been considered a feminist, yet—she was a latter-day pioneering woman in the continental United States.

She was an opinionated individual at a time when women were expected to be nothing more than “the little woman”, cooking and cleaning for the man of the house. In addition to her career as a writer, she maintained her orchards of oranges and pecans, often under the most difficult of situations and sometimes with very little assistance.

Rawlings was enormously popular amongst her friends, comfortable whether hobnobbing with the rich and famous or living with her impoverished scrub neighbors…at the same time she was a very private individual who relished her privacy and solitude. She could be at ease whether visiting the White House or attending a play on Broadway in New York—or hunting and fishing with the “fellows” – whether those fellows were themselves famous writers or her neighbor Floridian crackers*. She was openly frank about her preference to the company of men, rather than women.

(*The term “cracker” is very old, dating back to the time when the driver of oxen cracked yards of rawhide whips over his beasts. “There are ‘Georgia Crackers’ and ‘Florida Crackers’ Rawlings once wrote, saying “one hates the other as mothers and daughters sometimes hate.”)

In 1928, accompanied by her husband Charles, Marjorie first set eyes on Cross Creek. It was love at first sight for Marjorie – for Charles, maybe not so much. Marjorie was enchanted with its remoteness and the simplicity of life and immediately felt a connection to the land. (I can relate to this feeling, it was what I felt the first time I saw the Arleta house in the San Fernando Valley).

The property came with two cows, two mules, 150 chicken coops—and an old Ford truck. They had hoped to live off the citrus groves—that didn’t happen—but they WERE able to live off of Rawlings’ income as a writer. There is some speculation as to what ended the marriage between Marjorie and Charles. He didn’t like Florida or he may not have been able to deal with a wife more successful than he. One of the last things Charles said to her at the time of their divorce was “Of course, you realize you have no friends. Nobody likes you.” (Any of us who have had similar sentiments directed towards us at the end of a marriage could emphasize with Marjorie at this time in her life.) Then, too, Charles may have found Marjorie’s SUCCESS as a writer a bitter pill to swallow when he, himself, was also a writer but not nearly as successful .

Maybe sour grapes on Charles’ part? The world knows who Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was—what does the world know about Charles, except that he was her first husband?

Some years later Marjorie would remarry and that marriage would endure, even though she and her husband often lived apart while she pursued her career as a writer and he operated a hotel in St. Augustine, often causing rumors to fly that their marriage was unstable when, in fact, it was very secure.

Of her one writer – Roger L. Tarr writes, “Rawlings was not a feminist, at least not in the post-modern sense, but she was a strong willed woman who detested role playing. Equality of opportunity was paramount to her…what (she) fought against all her life—was the powerlessness of the average woman.”

In “Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings” which Roger L. Tarr edited, he writes that “Rawlings interest in the concept of justice and its application to human endeavor had a personal as well as a public context.

Her life in Florida led her to one of the most difficult issues she ever faced: racism. As a child growing up in Washington, D.C., and as a student at the University of Wisconsin, she had witnessed first-hand the effects of racial injustice. However, life in the South was quite another thing. There racism was blatant and it was accepted as a fact of life. When she moved to Florida, Rawlings by her own admission fell into the ethos of racism; it was all around her*….”

*(Sandy’s note: From 1979 to 1982, my husband and children and I lived in Florida. Racism was alive and well these many decades after Rawlings’ life—and what disturbed me most is that the racism was blatant).

Tarr continues, “Her (Rawlings) personal dilemma soon became a professional one as well. If she were to portray accurately the situation and the language of the people she wrote about, if she were to be honest…for the sake of historical record, how was she to treat the subject of racism? Her Cracker friends and Cracker characters were with few exceptions, racists.

Her dilemma was not unlike that of any writer whose subject is the Deep South. What was even more traumatic for her as the realization that she herself as often racist in attitude and in her use of language. Yet she had a deep commitment to the presentation and ennobling of the black culture…”
Prior to the publication of “The Yearling” in 1938, Rawlings’ fiction did not focus on the black culture. I think an important factor in her change of attitude were the years in close contact with African Americans, with the people who lived and worked with her from day to day and whose companionship became important I her life.

Writes Tarr, “Majorie’s personal attitudes began to change and in consequence so did the language of her fiction. By the mid 1940s, Rawlings admitted, ‘There is no question that we must all go out for ‘full equality’, meaningless though the phrase may be. Anything else is the height of hypocrisy’. (I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s oft-repeated quote by Oprah Winfrey, “When you know better, you do better.”)

With regard to women’s causes, Rawlings was outspoken on these since her student days at the University of Wisconsin.

Rawlings counted as friends many other famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Marcia Davenport, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell and Zora Neal Hurston. Rawlings even managed to hobnob a bit with Eleanor Roosevelt (who was a firm and famous advocate for the rights and equality of all people). Rawlings was once a guest at the White House and even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.

You may know her best as the author of a most successful novel, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for her book “The Yearling” which went through twenty-one printings in just two years. “The Yearling” was also made into a movie, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman.

Or, perhaps, if you are a cookbook collector like I am, you may be familiar with Rawlings’ almost-equally-famous “Cross Creek Cookery” I am fortunate enough to first editions of both “Cross Creek” and “Cross Creek Cookery.”
Rawlings did write prior to moving to Cross Creek; she and husband Charles both worked for the Courier-Journal in Louisville Kentucky for several years—he as a reporter and she as a feature writer.

It was a difficult time and Rawlings struggled after graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1918 to make her mark on the literary world. The USA had just emerged from World War I. She moved to New York City where she found employment, eventually, as a writer and editor for the War Work Counsel at their national headquarters of the YWCA. In her spare time she continued to attempt to sell her short stories and poetry, sometimes with a bit of success. From 1926 to 1928 she wrote nearly 500 poems for the Rochester Times-Union under the title “Songs of a Housewife”. (Roger L. Tarr edited the poems and published them under this title in 1996).

However, after a few years working in Kentucky, the pair realized their journalistic work in Louisville had little future and they returned to Rochester, where Charles became a traveling salesman but Marjorie was unable to find a market for her short stories. By 1922 she was writing feature articles for the Rochester Evening Journal and the Rochester American, under her own by-line. Occasionally, Marjorie’s feature stories made the front page of the Rochester Sunday American. A few years passed by with Charles trying to sell shoes and Marjorie attempting to sell her stories by free-lance writing*.

*(Sandy’s note: *It’s a curious paradox in writing—you need an agent to sell your work, but most agents don’t want to take you on unless you have had success selling. This is something I learned firsthand many years ago. There is an expression in writing, “Over the transom” which refers to an unsolicited manuscript, submitted by an author without the benefit of an agent.)

Feeling they needed a vacation, Charles and Marjorie sailed from New York down the East Coast and into the mouth of the St John’s River, on a Clyde Line Steamer. They soon discovered that the north central interior of Florida was nothing like the famous Florida Gold Coast—but it was during this visit, while Marjorie visited the scrub area, fished for bass on the lakes and took a boat trip on the74-mile long Ocklawaha River—that she “discovered” the remoteness and the mystery of the scrub, and the simplicity of the local people’s daily lives.

“Let’s sell everything and move south,” Marjorie suggested to Charles. “How we could write!” – And he agreed. They asked a friend to look for a place where they could grow citrus while they tried to find a market for their writing. In July, their friend told them of a place, 74 acres, a shabby farmhouse, two story bar, 3300 orange trees and 800 pecan trees. The price was $9,000.

Using a small inheritance Marjorie had received from her mother’s estate, they paid $7,400.00 down with the balance to be paid off at $500.00 a year.
“When I came to the Creek,” Marjorie writes in “Cross Creek”, “and knew the old grove and farmhouse at once as home, “there was some terror, such as one feels in the first recognition of a human love, for the joining of person to place, as of person to person, is a commitment to shred sorrow, even as to shared joy. The farmhouse was all dinginess. It sat snugly then as now under tall old orange trees, and had a simple grace of line, low rambling and one-storied….”

She relates that the house was cracked and gray for lack of paint; there was a tin roof that would have ruined a mansion, and the porch was an excrescence, scarcely wide enough for one to pass in front of the chairs. “The yard was bare and spotted with sandspurs,” she recalled, “with three lean Duchess rosebushes, left behind to starve, like cats….”

“Inside the house…the walls were painted a battleship gray and the floors a muddy ochre. The brick fireplaces were walled over with tin and filled with a year’s rubbish…” It took the Rawlings’ four years before the gray of the last room was decently covered with white, money for paint being scarce, and time so filled with other work that an hour with a brush was a stolen pleasure…”

But for Marjorie, it was love at first sight.

In writing of her love for this place, she wrote—again, in “Cross Creek”, “…I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to. In the lakeside hammock there is a constant stirring in the treetops as though on the stillest days the breathing of the earth is yet audible. The Spanish moss sways a little always. The heavy forest thins into occasional great trees, live oaks and palms and pines. In spring, the yellow Jessamine is heavy on the air. In summer the red trumpet vine shouts from the gray trunks, and in autumn and winter the holly berries are small bright lamps in the half-light….”

Marjorie began to sell some of her short stories, or sketches, about people and life in the Florida scrub—usually based on real people and true incidents, following the axiom to writers to write about the things you know best. It got the author embroiled in a lawsuit and the dissolution of a friendship between herself and another Cross Creek inhabitant, Zelma
Cason.

Zelma sued Marjorie for libel, then later changed the charge to invasion of privacy. It was the first time in Florida history that a case pitted privacy rights against freedom of speech right. Up to then, authors had been describing real people and using real names as a matter of course.
The courtroom battle dragged on for years, ending up in the Florida Supreme Court; the trial in Gainesville circuit court had ended up with a not guilty verdict. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the verdict—but only awarded Zelma $1.00. (She had asked for $100,000). The case had taken five years and cost Marjorie $32,000 in legal fees. The friendship between the two women was severed. Zelma wept at Marjorie’s funeral—one wonders, was the lawsuit the result of poor advice given to Zelma? Oddly enough, the two women are buried not far apart from each other in Antioch Cemetery, near Island Grove, a few miles from Cross Creek.

What was certainly far more costly, in the long run, was the affect the trial had on Marjorie’s health, which was often precarious to begin with, and her psyche.

Mostly, though, the people who lived in Cross Creek didn’t read and were generally unimpressed with her other-worldly fame as a writer. One time, for lack of having anything else handy at the time, Marjorie used a copy of The Yearling to kill a snake that had gotten into the house. In describing the incident to her handyman afterwards, he chuckled and said “It sho’ do come in handy to write books.”

On the subject of snakes, elsewhere in “Cross Creek”, Marjorie wrote, “My determination to use common sense might have been my undoing. One late winter day in my first year I discovered under the palm tree by the gate a small pile of Amaryllis bulbs. The yard was desperate for flowers and greenery and I began separating the bulbs to set out for spring blooming. I dug with my fingers under the pile and brought out in my hand not a snake,
surely, but a ten-inch long piece of Chinese lacquer. The slim inert reptile was an exquisite series of shining bands of yellow and black and vermilion, with a tiny black nose. I thought, “Here is a snake, in my hands, and it is as beautiful as a necklace. This is the moment in which to forget all nonsense.” I let it slide back and forth through my fingers. Its texture was like satin. I played with it a long time, then killed it
reluctantly with a stick, not for fear or hate, but because I decided to cure the skin for an ornament on the handle of a riding crop. I salted the hide and tacked it to a sunny wall. I showed it proudly to my friend Ed Hopkins, who was teaching me the Florida flora and fauna.

He said, “God takes care of fools and children.”
The snake was the deadly coral snake. Its venom is of the cobra type, killing within a few minutes by a paralyzing of the nerves….” Mrs. Rawlings’ fear of snakes returned.
**
In 1931, Marjorie’s story “Jacob’s Ladder” was published in Scribner’s Magazine for which the author received $700.00—quite a lot of money at the height of the Great Depression! Since Marjorie had a great fear of snakes and a greater fear of encountering something worse in the outhouse after dark, the $700.00 paid for an indoor bathroom with a toilet ordered new from Sears Roebuck.

Elizabeth Silverthorne, author of “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Sojourner at Cross Creek” writes that “part of her appeal to the natives [of Cross Creek] was her sincere interest in them and her frank eagerness to learn from them everything they could teach her, from how to prepare their natives dishes to how to hunt and fish…” Indeed, Marjorie became a good fisherman and a “pretty good hunter” according to her grove manager. A few years later, when her love of animals overcame her enjoyment of the sport, she still loved to go along with the huntsmen for the pleasure of the company and the enjoyment she got from being outdoors. In her own words, Marjorie said “There was great sport at first in all the hunting. Then it came to sicken me, and now I go to the pines as a guest and not an invader…”

And, as Marjorie came to understand the Cracker’s viewpoint, she also came to sympathize with it. In a number of her stories and novels, explains Silverthorne, “Crackers do things that are wrong according to the law but right according to their own code.”
In late summer of 1932, Marjorie went to live with a family in the big scrub country—she lived with them for over two months, helping with the chores, Washing heavy quilts by stomping them in wash tubs, helping to make lye soap and sleeping under a mosquito net, as the family did, with one sheet covered by a quilt. She scrubbed floors with corn shuck brushes and helped the family keep in squirrel meat. She did all of the illegal things the men of the scrub did, including stalking deer with a light at night, out of season.

Eventually, her first novel, “South Moon Under” was written. (“south moon under” was a native Floridian phrase, used by the people of the scrub, who were constantly conscious of the phases of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the wind. It was important for them to know that deer, fish, and other creatures stirred and fed ‘on the moon’ – at moon rise, at south-moon over, when the moon was at its zenith, at moon down and at south moon under—when the moon was directly under the earth). “South Moon Under” tells the story of a young man, Lant, who must support himself and his mother by making and selling moonshine, and what he must do when a traitorous cousin threatens to turn him in. Moonshiners were the subject of several of Marjorie’s stories and she lived with a moonshiner for several weeks, near Ocala, to prepare for writing the book.

“South Moon Under,” published in 1933, was chosen by the Book of the Month Club along with George Bernard Shaw’s “Adventures of a Black Girl in Search for God”. It was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Ms Silverthorne writes that one of Marjorie’s most admirable qualities was her complete freedom from professional jealousy…she often wrote letters to writers whose work she admired and frequently struck up lifelong friendships with them as a result. She became friends with John and Margaret Marsh (you may know her better as Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind”). Marjorie and Margaret discovered they had a lot in common.

One of my favorite stories about Marjorie is that of a meeting with Ernest Hemingway She was having lunch with friends at her husband Norton’s Castle Warden Hotel one day, and thought she recognized Hemingway across the room. She sent him a note that read, “If you are Ernest Hemingway, please come have a drink with us.”

He sent a note back, saying, “If you are Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, I’d be delighted”. (Marjorie had met Hemingway initially on a friend’s yacht).

After she read “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” she wrote a letter of praise to him and invited him and his family to visit Cross Creek to hunt. There are, actually, a wealth of stories about Marjorie and the well-known authors with whom she corresponded. She became friends not only with Hemingway and Margaret Mitchell, but also Thomas Wolfe, Robert Frost, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. She also wrote to writers such as A.J. Cronin and John Steinbeck, praising them for their work.

In 1935, while continuously writing short stories which were published in various popular magazines of the day, Marjorie’s book, “Golden Apples” was published. It was one of her least well received books and she herself was disappointed in it. In a 1935 letter to her publisher Max Perkins, she called it “Interesting trash instead of literature.”
But she found enormous success in 1938 with “The Yearling”. It was her most famous book, for which Marjorie is best known. It is considered a classic in children’s literature. Oddly enough, she and her editor had agreed that the book would be written for adults but in a spirit that would appeal to children.

The story was based on an actual family living in the Florida scrub, and a boy who made a pet out of a deer, and in the end was forced to kill it. “The Yearling” was an instant success and received rave reviews. Two weeks after its publication, it was on the list of best sellers, where it remained for 93 weeks. During the first two months, 60,000 copies were sold, and in just over a year, it went through 21 American printings, selling over 500,000 copies. (Letters were sent to Marjorie, in response to reader appreciation for “The Yearling”, even fifteen years after her death. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939. (*My copy of “The Yearling” is from the Palmetto Edition which was offered at a special price of $1.30 only until Christmas, 1942.)

Following “The Yearling” in 1938, Scribner’s published her book “When the Whippoorwill” a collection of short stories, in 1940.

From the University of Miami, Treasuries of South Florida Library, comes this explanation of the title (which I had to do some searching to find):
The title, “When the Whippoorwill”, derives from another Florida country or Cracker expression, “When the first whippoorwill calls it is time for the corn to be in the ground.” This is a most appropriate title for a collection of stories about the lives of Florida Crackers. Readers are treated to this familiar Cracker terminology in the short story “Varmints.” The book also includes “A Crop of Beans;” “Benny and the Bird Dogs;” “Jacob’s Ladder;” “The Pardon;” “The Enemy;” “Gal Young Un;” “Alligators;” “A Plumb Clare Conscience;” “A Mother in Mannville;” and “Cocks Must Crow.” Many of the stories were first published in magazines, including “Varmints,” which appeared in the December, 1936, issue of Scribner’s. In “Varmints,” Rawlings offers a narrative tale of Quincey Dover’s troubles with “an unnatural mule belonging to two of her acquaintances.”

The typescript is accompanied by an autographed copy of the story’s first book printing in 1940. This copy is inscribed by Rawlings to her future husband Norton Baskin, and was a gift from him to the University of Florida Libraries.

Rawlings gave her manuscripts and correspondence to the University of Florida in 1950. This typescript typifies Rawlings’ writing process: she typed first drafts on cheap yellow second sheets, then revised generously, usually in pencil. As with the original manuscript of the Yearling, the paper used is pulpy and highly acidic. All the Rawlings’ manuscripts were, by the 1990s, too fragile for use, and could be consulted only by using the microfilm copies. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and other concerned individuals provided generous private support and the Libraries’ Preservation Department was able to purchase the supplies needed to treat and thereby conserve each page. Every sheet of manuscript paper has been deacidified, encapsulated in archival mylar, and bound in protective covers. Thus the originals may be examined by students and scholars without harm. The pages are kept in proper order, and are safe from the ravages of dirt, insects, dampness, and, insofar as possible, time.”

It would appear—judging from the prices I have encountered for pre-owned copies of “When the Whippoorwill”—that it was not as widely published as “The Yearling”. Some of the stories in “When the Whippoorwill” can be found in “Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings”, edited by Roger L. Tarr and published in 1994 by the University Press of Florida.

After the publication and huge success of “The Yearling” Marjorie’s publishers suggested a book about life in the Florida scrub. Marjorie’s thoughts were already running along the same lines; she didn’t have to fret over a title—the book named itself: “Cross Creek”. It was first published in 1942.

“Cross Creek was chosen for a Book of the Month selection, along with John Steinbeck’s “The Moon is Down”. Cross Creek received immediate critical acclaim with some reviewers calling her “a female Thoreau.”

“Cross Creek” rose to the top of the best seller lists and remained there for many months. The armed forces published a special edition of “Cross Creek” which led, in turn , to Marjorie being inundated with mail from servicemen…bearing in mind this was 1942 and the USA was deeply embroiled in World War II. Marjorie strived to answer all of their letters. I think the charm and quietness, the native humor and Marjorie’s love of the earth endeared her to the world during this difficult period in American history.
“Who owns Cross Creek?” Marjorie writes on the last page of the book. She answers her own question; “The red-birds, I think, more than I, for they will have their nests even in the face of delinquent mortgages. And after I am dead, who am childless, the human ownership of grove and field and hammock is hypothetical. But a long line of red-birds and whippoorwills and blue-jays and ground doves will descend from the present owners of nests in the orange trees, and their claim will be less subject to dispute than that of any human heirs Houses are individual and can be owned, like nests, and fought for. But what of the land? It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.” (I am inclined to think that it was with these words, this writing, that Marjorie must have decided she would leave the house and most of the property to the University of Florida).

“Cross Creek Cookery” grew out of the popularity of a chapter in “Cross Creek”, titled “Our Daily Bread” so when Marjorie suggested to her editors at Scribner’s that she compile a cookbook, they quickly agreed. Of her cooking, Marjorie wrote (in “Cross Creek”) “Cookery is my one vanity and I am a slave to any guest who praises my culinary art. This is my Achilles heel…” (I smiled, reading those lines; I could have written them myself). Because Cross Creek Cookery was a cook book, and I often review cookbooks, I will write a separate review of the book for you. “Cross Creek Cookery” was published by Scribner’s in 1942.

By the end of 1942, writes The Literary Traveler, “Both The Yearling and Cross Creek had been translated into 13 foreign languages and published in the armed forces edition. Shortly after Marjorie’s 50th birthday, the motion picture version of The Yearling starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman came out to critical acclaim.”

More than a decade would pass before Marjorie completed “The Sojourner”. She suffered from ill health (undoubtedly not helped by a heavy cigarette addiction—she smoked up to five packs a day of “Lucky Strikes”). She was in two automobile accidents and the slander lawsuit lasted five years. “The Sojourner” was published in 1953 to mixed reviews; that December, Marjorie died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Antioch Cemetery, a short distance from Cross Creek.

Her husband Baskin had written on her gravestone, “Through her writings, she endeared herself to the people of the world.”

In 1970, the Florida Parks Service began managing Marjorie’s home at Cross Creek. It needed a great deal of restoration. By 1980, there was just the house surrounded by a vast emptiness. Major restoration was completed in 1996, the year of MKR’s 100th birthday.

Marjorie had written, “I do not know how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.” These words bring tears to my eyes. I can relate. And I suppose this explains my love for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the books and short stories that she wrote. I feel in her a kindred spirit, even though she passed away when I was just a young girl myself—and had not yet discovered who SHE was.

Books by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
• South Moon Under, 1933
• Golden Apples, 1935
• The Yearling, 1938
• When the Whippoorwill, 1940
• Cross Creek, 1942
• Cross Creek Cookery, 1942
• The Sojourner, 1953
Published posthumously:
• The Secret River, 1955)
• The Marjorie Rawlings Reader, Edited by Julia Scribner Bigham 1956
• Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, edited by Roger Tarr,
1994
• Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Songs of a Housewife, edited by Roger Tarr, 1996

• Blood of My Blood, edited by Anne Blythe Meriwether, 2002

Books About Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Creek

• Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Gordon Bigelow, 1966
• The Selected Letters of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Edited by Gordon Bigelow and Laura V. Monti, 1983

• Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Sojourner at Cross Creek, Elizabeth Silverthorne, 1988
• Invasion of P
privacy: The Cross Creek Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Patricia Nassif Acton, 1988
• Idella, Marjorie Rawlings’ “Perfect Maid”, Idella Parker, 1992
• The Creek, J.T. Glisson, 1993
• Cross Creek Kitchens, Sally Morrison and Kate Barnes, 1993
• Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers, Sandra Wallus Sammons and Nina McGuire, 1995
• Vegetable Gardening in Florida, James M. Stephens, 1999
• From Reddick to Cross Creek, Idella Parker, 1999
• Max & Marjorie (Letters Between Maxwell Perkins and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 1999
• The Private Marjorie (Letters from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to Norton S. Baskin), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 2004
• The Uncollected Writings of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Collection of juvenilia, college writing, newspaper pieces, and stories of life in Florida), Edited by Rodger L. Tarr and Brent E. Kinser, 2007

–Sandra Lee Smith

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SIMPLY THE BEST (subtitle 250 prize winning family recipes)

SIMPLY THE BEST is a Weight watcher cookbook – mine is a soft-cover cookbook that I acquired somewhere along the way. It wasn’t surprising. I originally joined Weight Watchers around 1984 along with a girlfriend. We’d go to a meeting one evening a week and after weighing in and attending the meeting, we’d go next door where they served some kind of ice cream dessert that was “Weight Watcher approved” My friend moved up north and I eventually switched to a meeting that was closer to home. As time went by, I would re-gain the weight (by not attending the meetings) and return to Weight Watcher meetings. I made several girlfriends along the way.

Back in 2006, I returned to Weight Watchers and this time maintained my dedication to losing excess weight. I weighed, I believe, 183 pounds at the time I returned to Weight Watcher meetings (I have been a lifetime member for many years–as long as I am not overweight, I don’t have to pay for attending the meetings).

One thing I would like to point out to anyone who is interested–is that you don’t have to be overweight or interested in a weight loss cookbook to add them to your collection. The original cookbooks aren’t as interesting as the more recent, such as SIMPLY THE BEST, which contains 250 prize winning recipes, including some luscious colored photographs.

For instance, I collect soup recipes everywhere I can find them–SIMPLY THE BEST offers recipes for Gazpacho, Hearty Chicken-Vegetable Soup, Harvest Chicken Chowder, Skinny New England Clam Chowder, Tortellini Soup, Mushroom-Barley Soup–all this and more!

Equally impressive are the recipes for fish/seafood – such as Florentine Orange Roughy, Greek Baked Fish with Vegetables, Zesty Flounder and Ginger Shrimp Stir-Fry, just to name a few.

Included with the detailed recipes are equally detailed lists of ingredients. Another feature is a list of Recipe Symbols–ranging from those that can be made ahead to vegetarian.

Another feature in the introduction is the story of how this particular WW cookbook came into existence. After testing and retesting, Weight Watchers whittled the best down to 250 prize winning family recipes.

I checked Amazon.com for the availability of copies–pre-owned copies of SIMPLY THE BEST start around 99c and up. Remember that when you order a preowned copy there is a charge of $3.99 for shipping and handling. Generally, these copies are being offered by pre-owned sources…what we used to think of as used bookstore owners. Over time I have discovered which pre-owned sources are the most reliable.

SIMPLY THE BEST is a terrific cookbook to add to your collection. Published in 1997, it is a valuable addition to your collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

FOOD HEALTH AND HAPPINESS BY OPRAH WINFREY

It isnt often that I go out and buy new cookbooks anymore–for one thing, I am completely out of bookshelf space–I kid you not. I have been working on thinning out the shelves in the garage library by donating works of fiction that were primarily Bob’s–we didn’t share our love of fiction by the same authors–besides, even if I have space on the shelves in the garage library, those books are our fiction authors. It doesnt solve my problem of lack of space inside the house where all of my cookbooks are. And even though bookcases are in all three bedrooms (plus two walls of the living room) of my house and mostly on all three walls (and often doubled up on the shelves, plus five smaller bookcases are sandwiched here and there in the family room, guests who come into the house are generally somewhat askance by the sight of the books, not to mention two hundred cookie jars and 125 recipe boxes, give or take a few dozen. Generally, the first thing anyone says to me when they see the bookcases is “do you actually read all of these books?” –I am sorely tempted to be crass and say something like “I’m just keeping them for a friend”. People who have been in my life for many years are used to the sight.

But back to cookbooks–like I mentioned I rarely buy new cookbooks. I was spoiled silly by the editor of a newsletter called Cookbook Collectors Exchange, generally referred as the CCE; publishers would send cookbooks to Sue, the editor, to be reviewed and featured in an issue of the CCE newsletter. I began reviewing cookbooks in the CCE – and no one ever complained — actually, we received many favorable responses to my reviews.Reviewing cookbook kept me fairly busy for about a decade; the newsletter folded when Sue’s husband passed away. What followed were a series of unfortunate events.

In 2002 I retired from the company where I had been employed for 27 years. in 2008 we found we had to move; the owner of a house I had rented for 19 years wanted a high increase in rent that I could ill afford; we were now retired senior citizens.

And I don’t remember exactly when we began to notice the demise of all the bookstores, new and used, throughout the San Fernando Valley–and while we regretted and mourned the loss of the bookstores in the San Fernando Valley, I couldn’t resist going to the stores and buying more cookbooks at special prices. The worst loss of all was the closing of Dutton book store, which had been a staple in bookstore lovers for decades. You knew a black cloud had fallen over the San Fernando Valley when Duttons closed their doors forever. (In writing about these events, I use the plural “we” because my significant other, Bob, loved books as much as I. Whenever we traveled anywhere, we had to checkout all the bookstores where ever we were.

At any rate, the bookstores disappeared and Amazon.com came into our lives–where you could find any number of pre-owned books which was kind of like going through a dozen used book stores in one fell swoop.

But I digress–and I apologize for that.

A few weeks ago, my son Steve was visiting me and we made a trip to the Barnes & Noble book store in Palmdale; I had two B&N gift cards burning a hole in my pocket – or they would have been if I had a pocket–and one of the books I bought at Barnes & Noble is Oprah Winfrey’s FOOD HEALTH and HAPPINESS.

I was enchanted with the first chapter SOUP IS LOVE–along with a collection of soup recipes (I want to make all of them) are photographs of Oprah as a young girl. Actually – I think FOOD HEALTH and HAPPINESS is as much a book of memoirs as well as recipes. Other chapters choreograph Oprah’s rise to fame–if you are a fan, as am I, you will thoroughly enjoy reading all about Oprah, told by Oprah.

Along with reading about Oprah, her cookbook is lavish with food art–can it get any better than this?

I love this cookbook; I think you will too. Prices start at $35.00.  Amazon.com has copies for $17.50 as well as new and used copies starting at $8.00.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Sandra Lee Smith

I an the first to admit how little I know about computers and how they work. For many years I worked in an office (I am reluctant to mention the name; I don’t want anyone from the office showing up on my doorstep or suing me for naming names.) I clearly remember the year–1982–when the Office began to convert to processing claims by computer–prior to this, all the claims were processed by filling out a form, determining whether or not the person was entitled to be reimbursed for his or her medical expense, figuring out what the 80% reimbursement came to, deducting any deductible (oh, those were the days! the annual deductible was $100.00 per person) and routing the claim to the person who typed the checks every day.

As time went by, computers improved by leaps and bounds–we changed computer systems three or four times in the period I was working there–when I decided it was time to retire, another computer system was scheduled to be installed the following January. The time was right, I thought.

Well, one of the first things I did that following January was buy a new computer of my own. My sister’s stepson helped me choose a computer and he also installed it for me. I wanted to get back to freelance writing and it was senseless to type articles or manuscripts on a typewriter. I didn’t even own a typewriter by then–I had lent my portable Smith-Corona to a friend who never returned it. (Even so, the first poems I sold were typed on that portable Smith-Corona).

Now I had advanced to the world of computers–back then the paper was 3 thickness, an original with two copies–and the paper was continuously fed through the computer–if you’ve been around a long time, you will remember how that paper was fed through the computer. I have to admit, today’s keyboard, choice of lap top or desk top, and plain white multi-use paper, versatile for lasers, inkjets and copiers does a much better job of printing my material than anything I had used before. (I am old enough to remember typing a manuscript with a carbon copy, double spaced, word total indicated at the top of the page (no, your typewriter didn’t compute the word total for you–today’s computer does that job, though). I had an experience recently that made a believer out of me–a computer geek was helping me with some computer issues…I don’t know how the subject turned to my blog, but it did–this person, who was far away, was able to retrieve my blog and enabled me to return to writing for my blog again. I didn’t think it was possible–but I have under estimated computers for years–and I am as happy as a clam to be working on my blog again.

READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

Sandy's Chatter

If you have been collecting cookbooks for any length of time, or gravitate towards any articles or references to cookbooks that you find on the Internet, in the newspaper –or anywhere else—you may have seen the oft-repeated comment from collectors, “I read cookbooks like novels” in a sort of perplexed way, like who does anything like this? The answer is WE ALL DO and our number is legion. I might have made a comment like this myself back in 1965 when I first started collecting cookbooks and really didn’t know where to go about getting started.
There was a magazine for penpals called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle trying to find a little Hungarian cookbook for a friend and as an afterthought, wrote that I wanted to start collecting cookbooks and would buy or trade…

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FORGOTTEN RECIPES

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” compiled and updated by Jaine Rodack (and published by Wimmer Books) is the kind of cookbook that demonstrates, I think, what you can do with an idea. Not only that, but Ms. Rodack’s book, copyrighted and first published in 1981, has gone through sixteen printings as of 2002 (possibly more since then).

“It all started out simply enough,” explains Jaine. “I went to a flea market and bought an old, yellowed magazine from the 20s. When I got it home, I realized what a treasure I had! Not only were the articles a bit of living history, but the entire magazine was a look at the way people of the day kept house, shopped and cooked. There were fashions, commentaries by leading authorities and readers’ letters expressing their views….”

From then on, she says, she was hooked. She bought, lived and breathed magazines. “The artwork,” she exclaims, “was breathtaking. The stories—terribly romantic, and the recipes—sensational!”

Jaine rediscovered some things she hadn’t eaten for years and came upon others she had never heard of, like Rinkum Diddy.

After many years, Jaine began to assemble some of the recipes. She notes, “depending on the year they were written, their instructions differ greatly. In the late 1800s there were no controlled ovens and recipes said “cook til done”. Fireless cookstoves, she notes, and other now-forgotten inventions varied instructions as well. She tried to keep the recipes as close to the original recipe as possible and advises you may have to experiment a little to get the heat and cooking time straight.

Included, as well, are various household hints, along with “bits and pieces” of memorabilia to give you an idea of what was going on in the world at the time these recipes appeared.

“Forgotten Recipes” opens with a look at Yesterday’s Kitchens and provides a comparison on inflation, then and now – an article that appeared in a 1949 dealt with the cost of feeding a family of three. “According to this article,” writes Jaine, “you could feed such a family on $10 a week..and feed them well”. She goes on to provide a comparison with groceries purchased in 1949 and the same items bought at the time her book was published. (I am sure the $10 a week in 1949 was fairly accurate; I remember my mother telling me that, during the 1940s, she had $10 a week with which to buy groceries and whatever other household items we needed—and there were seven in our family, five children and two adults).

Jaine notes that the total spent in 1983 for $10 worth of groceries in 1949 was $41.58.

Another chapter in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is devoted to household hints which, Jaine explains, have been a part of America’s magazines for over 90 years. (and still are! Now we have Hints from Heloise!).

Some of the household hints are really outdated, such as “Have radiator heat? Place a metal bread box over it and use it for a warming cabinet for your dishes…” but the ideas for substitutes for sugar (during the war years when sugar was rationed) would still work today – although I believe that honey, the substitute most often recommended, is more expensive today than sugar was in the 1940s!

Recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” range widely, from 1922 pork scrapple (My sister in Tennessee still makes scrapple!) to Timbales (pastry shells that you filled with seasoned food, like salmon or spinach or peas), from a 1930 recipe for cabbage, apple and walnut salad (that is somewhat similar to the way my mother made cole slaw, with apple in it), from such tried and true recipes for reusing rice to make dishes like fried rice to a 1944 recipe for Green Tomato Pie.

There is a 1923 recipe for Rinktum Diddy (made with cheese and canned tomatoes—sounds delicious!) and a 1922 recipe for creamed lobster that won a $100 in a recipe contest. Jaine notes, quite correctly, that lobster was once not as expensive as it is now—and highly recommends the recipe which calls for 2 cups of diced boiled lobster. (I’m thinking of trying this with canned crab as a substitute).

Included as well as recipes for 1927 Tamale Pie which, if I recall correctly, was popular for decades and mentioned as one of Richard Nixon’s favorite recipes. (Jaine considers Tamale Pie as a foreign dish but is actually a completely American invention…even so, this is something you may want to “re-discover”). There are recipes for making your own tomato sauce, 1934 Spanish Meatloaf, ad a number of recipes which called for veal (something else that was once very inexpensive—haven’t times changed?)

Dessert recipes include recipes for butterless cake, 1931 Plantation Marble Cake, 1928 Award Winning Gold Cake, a 1927 Ice Box Cake and 1932 Raisin Nut Pie—and, aha! A 1928 thanksgiving fruitcake recipe that sounds pretty good to me!

Accompanying many of the recipes are sidebars explaining where the recipe came from or the time period in which it was popular, as well as comments such as “in 1930 Woolworth’s was still a five and ten cents store, women were trying to break the ‘tub habit’ in favor of washing machines, and gas ranges were getting a whole new look..” which appears with a 1930 Butter Pie recipe

Overall, the recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” are entertaining, and nostalgic (for some of us, at least) and offer a delightful trip back in time to see how things were done in the good old days.

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 25 cents and up. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

*I found FORGOTTEN RECIPES listed on Amazon.com; numerous copies can be found in the pre-owned listings, starting at 25 cents. Shipping and handling is still $3.99—still a great bargain. I posted this article originally in 2011. – sls

AUGUST 5, 1962 MARILYN MONROE WAS FOUND DEAD IN HER BEDROOM

August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom, face down, with a telephone in her hand.

It was on the front page of the L.A. Times. I was working at Household Finance at the time, taking buses to and from work. We had rented an apartment on Sarah Street in North Hollywood; it took me several buses trips, with transfers, to get to work or back home again. I decided to walk the last lap down Hollywood Boulevard, and there it was, in a newspaper rack, front page, Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s death had a profound effect on me; it was my first experience with the death of someone famous, who lived not far from where I worked in Hollywood.

I became acquainted with a coworker who began giving me trips to and from work—it didn’t occur to me to offer to pay her for it – I really was naïve about a lot of things when I was not yet twenty two years old. Friendships came and went in my early years of living in Southern California. In early 1963, I flew back to Cincinnati with Michael, when I became pregnant and wanted my own OB-GYN to take care of me, following a serious miscarriage in 1962. Jim followed a month later. I went back to the office where I was working, along with my sister in law, Dee, Williams Directory, before we went to California. I asked for my old job back – the manager asked when I could start. “Right now!” I said and was given a typewriter to work on. I worked until 2 weeks before Steve’s birth. Then I developed a blood clot in my right leg and was unable to do Anything for six weeks. A girlfriend came to help take care of me and Steve. My sister in law, two doors down, took care of Michael when Jim couldn’t.

Meanwhile, Jim worked briefly at a job and was laid off. One day I had $5 for baby food. We went to my mother’s and she gave us half of what was in her freezer. Then we went to my sister Becky’s, and she gave me half of everything in her pantry. I cried all the way home.

“I’m NOT going to live this way,” I told Jim on our way home. “We need to go back to California (where I knew he could find a job). Steve was born in August. In December we were driving across country over icy roads even on the expressway. It didn’t cross my mind that we were risking the lives of two young children—I had faith in Jim’s capability behind the wheel.

We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and both of us found jobs at Weber Aircraft. That’s where 1964 found us living and working.

I didn’t drive yet – a coworker at Weber Aircraft, a few years later, taught me how to drive on our lunch hours. It took me a few years to grasp that going to and from work on a bus wasn’t very easy to do. Once I had my driver’s license I began driving a 1956 Chevrolet that Jim had bought. I shook with fear every time I got behind the wheel of the car; I was a nervous Nellie for a long time. When I was taking my driver’s test with a DMV employee in the car with me, I shook with fear. He asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said, “I’m just nervous about taking this test” – I think he passed me out of compassion for my fear.
This was one small segment of my life-of our lives–in the 1960s.

–Sandra Lee Smith